On about our fifth date, we saw a movie that had a troubled kid in it. After the movie, Andrew said to me, “that’s the kind of kid that I’d like to adopt someday.” I found that interesting for a few reasons, but most importantly, because I had always thought I’d like to adopt children.
Fast forward about 15 years, past a wedding and two biological kids, and we start the process. We sat down with our social worker and told her that we’d like to explore adoption. We told her we’d consider anything – open adoption, foster adoption, private adoption – but that we had definitely decided against international adoption. So, after some discussion, we decided to pursue an open adoption of a domestic infant. We went home with all the paperwork to fill out and started working on gathering all the proof we could that we would be suitable parents. One particular form, though, created a stumbling block for us. It was a list of every medical condition known to man, and we had to decide if we would accept a child who had it or who had a family history of it. First, let me say that we took this exercise more seriously than most people probably do. I spent hours online looking up diseases, many of which I’d heard of, but wasn’t sure what the treatments and long-term prognosis were. I like research, but this got a little out of hand. The form, which was five pages, was taking us months to complete. Then one day, it hit me why. The reason I was stalling was because I didn’t like the answers we were giving on the form. We were basically saying that we wanted a healthy infant. But aren’t there hundreds of other couples out there who are also waiting to adopt a healthy infant? Is there a healthy infant crisis that we were responding to?
Then one night, I stumbled upon a picture of Max and Anna. They were two siblings who were available for adoption in Ethiopia. (Yea, I agree, Max and Anna probably weren’t their given Ethiopian names…but stick with me here.) I hesitantly showed their picture to Andrew, thinking he would remind me that we had already crossed international adoption off our list, but instead, he jumped on board. He had been reading a book about the Sub-Saharan AIDS crisis and was enthusiastic about Africa and helping kids whose parents might have been lost to the epidemic.
Once that decision was made, things fell into place. We signed with a placement agency in Boston and completed the paperwork for them, completed our home study, and got our dossier for the Ethiopian government in order. We officially went on the waiting list on January 27, 2009. At that time, the estimated wait time for a sibling pair was 3-12 months. But, around that same time, lots of changes occurred in the process. Ethiopia was now requiring families to attend court, which would mean making two trips to Ethiopia instead of just one. And they were processing fewer cases — a drastically reduced number. So we watched as our wait time crept past 12 months, past 18 months, to 20 months. Finally, at 20 months and 25 days, we received a referral for two of the most beautiful children I had ever seen. Referral pictures are notoriously bad, but I thought these were great.
In December, 2011, we travelled with eight other families to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and we met our children. It was an amazing, emotional, indescribable trip. During this trip, we passed court and the judge told us that this decision was irreversible and the children were ours forever.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t take them home yet, as they didn’t have American Visas. So, we left them behind and returned to the US to wait. Those eight weeks were some of the hardest of my life.
When we returned in late February, we took our older kids with us. They were 10 and 8, and many people advised us not to take them on such a long and unpredictable journey. But they did fabulous. I can’t imagine us becoming a family any other way. In Ethiopia, there were no video games or TV shows or baseball practices or homework to interfere with the bonding between siblings. And our older kids got to travel with us to Afar, the region where our kids were born. It was an amazing trip.
On March 7, 2012, a mere 37 months after starting the adoption process, we landed on US soil with two new kids. And that was our beginning.